“It is quite common to hear high officials in Washington and elsewhere speak of changing the map of the Middle East, as if ancient societies and myriad peoples can be shaken up like so many peanuts in a jar.”

― Edward W. Said

"A developing country that wants to develop its economy must first of all keep natural resources in its own hands."
- Deng Xiaoping

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Final Exam Chapters (Study Guide) - Sunday, December 2 between 8-10 PM

Dear all,

You will take the final exam on Sunday, December 2 between 8:00 - 10:00 PM. You wil have 48 multiple choice and true/false questions.

For your final exam, you are responsible for the following chapters:

Freedom’s Prospect - David Harvey (A Brief History of Neoliberalism)
Energy - Smallman and Brown
Chapter 9. Beyond Two Identities: Turkish Immigrants in Germany - Tugrul Keskin (Sociology and Human Rights)
Chapter 10: The Rights of Age: On Human Vulnerability - Bryan S. Turner (Sociology and Human Rights)
Environment - Smallman and Brown
Chapter 11. Children’s Rights - Brian Gran and Rachel Bryant (Sociology and Human Rights)
Chapter 12. Growing and Learning Human Rights - Judith Blau (Sociology and Human Rights)
Global Citizenship and Careers in the International Arena - Smallman and Brown
Chapter 13. Going Forward - Judith Blau (Sociology and Human Rights)
Samir Amin. Imperialism and Globalization. Monthly Review. 2001, Volume 53, Issue 02.
Samir Amin. The South challenges globalization. 2012-04-05, Issue 580
Benjamin R. Barber. Jihad Versus McWorld. Atlantic Magazine. March 1992.
Ryan Hofrichter's presentation on Refugees, posted on D2L 

And questions from the previous online quizzes.

Any concerns or questions are welcome.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Meritocracy Versus Democracy


The New York Times
November 9, 2012 

THE world’s two largest economies are both revealing their next leaders this month, and this coincidence has been depicted in the Western media as a sharp contrast between an opaque Communist state and a transparent populous democracy.
But beneath this superficial contrast is a competition between two political models, one based more on meritocratic leadership and the other on popular election. And the Chinese model may win.
While China’s dramatic economic rise has attracted global attention, its political and institutional changes have been little noticed or deliberately ignored for ideological reasons.
In fact, without much fanfare, Beijing has introduced significant reforms into its way of governance and established an elaborate system of what can be called “selection plus election.” Briefly, competent leaders are selected based on merit and popular support through a vigorous process of screening, opinion surveys, internal evaluations and various small-scale elections. The Communist Party of China may arguably be one of the world’s most meritocratic institutions.
Meritocratic governance is deeply-rooted in China’s Confucian political tradition, which among other things allowed the country to develop and sustain for well over a millennium the Keju system, the world’s first public exam process for selecting officials.
Consistent with this tradition, Beijing practices — not always successfully — meritocracy across the whole political stratum. Criteria such as performance in poverty eradication, job creation, local economic and social development, and, increasingly, cleaner environment are key factors in the promotion of local officials. China’s dramatic rise over the past three decades is inseparable from this meritocratic system.
Sensational scandals of official corruption and other social woes aside, China’s governance, like the Chinese economy, remains resilient and robust.
On the institutional front, the Party has introduced a strict mandatory retirement age and term limits at all levels. The general secretary, president and prime minister now serve a maximum of two terms of office, or 10 years. Collective leadership is practiced within the Politburo in part to prevent the type of the personality cult we witnessed during the Cultural Revolution.
These carefully designed changes have eliminated any possibility of permanent entrenchment of power in the hands of any individual leader (which was a major cause of the Arab Spring).
Nothing can better illustrate this meritocratic governance than the line-up of the next generation of Chinese leaders to be unveiled at the 18th Party Congress now in session.
Virtually all the candidates for the Standing Committee of the Party, China’s highest decision-making body, have served at least twice as a party secretary of a Chinese province or at similar managerial positions. It takes extraordinary talent and skills to govern a typical Chinese province, which is on average the size of four to five European states.
Indeed, with the Chinese system of meritocracy in place, it is inconceivable that people as weak and incompetent as George W. Bush or Yoshihiko Noda of Japan could ever get to the top leadership position.
Take the incoming leader, Xi Jinping, as an example. Xi served as the governor of Fujian Province, a region known for its dynamic economy, and as party secretary of Zhejiang province, which is renowned for its thriving private sector, and Shanghai, China’s financial and business hub with a powerful state-sector.
In other words, prior to taking his current position as the heir apparent to President Hu Jintao, Xi had in fact managed areas with total population of over 120 million and an economy larger than India’s. He was then given another five years to serve as vice president to get familiar with running state and military affairs at the national level.
China’s meritocracy challenges the stereotypical dichotomy of democracy v. autocracy. From Beijing’s point of view, the nature of a state, including its legitimacy, has to be defined by its substance: good governance, competent leadership and success in satisfying the citizenry.
Notwithstanding its many deficiencies, the Chinese government has ensured the world’s fastest growing economy and vastly improved living standards for most people. According to the Pew Research Center, 82 percent of Chinese surveyed in 2012 feel optimistic about their future, topping all other countries surveyed.
Indeed, Abraham Lincoln’s ideal of “government of the people, by the people, for the people,” is by no means easy to achieve, and American democracy is far from meeting this objective. Otherwise the Nobel economics laureate Joseph E. Stiglitz would not have decried, in perhaps too critical a tone, that the U.S. system is now “of the 1 percent, by the 1 percent, and for the 1 percent.”
China has become the world’s largest laboratory for economic, social and political change, and China’s model of “selection plus election,” is in a position now to compete with the U.S. model of electoral democracy.
Winston Churchill’s famous dictum — “democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried” — may be true in the Western cultural context. Many Chinese even paraphrase Churchill’s remark into what China’s great strategist Sun Tzu called “xiaxiace,” or “the least bad option,” which allows for the exit of bad leaders.
However, in China’s Confucian tradition of meritocracy, a state should always strive for what’s called “shangshangce,” or “the best of the best” option by choosing leaders of the highest caliber. It’s not easy, but efforts in this direction should never cease.
China’s political and institutional innovations so far have produced a system that has in many ways combined the best option of selecting well-tested leaders and the least bad option of ensuring the exit of bad leaders.
Zhang Weiwei is a professor of international relations at Fudan University and senior fellow at Chunqiu Institute. He is the author of “The China Wave: Rise of a Civilizational State.”

Monday, November 26, 2012

Crash! A brief history of modern global capitalism

Marxist theorist Leo Panitch argues that the role of nation state in the development of global capitalism has been overlooked. He picks out key moments, outlined in his new book The Making of Global Capitalism: The Political Economy of American Empire that demonstrate the intimate relationship between modern capitalism and the American state.

Leo Panitch, produced by Phil Maynard and Oliver Laughland   

guardian.co.uk, Monday 26 November 2012

To watch the video....

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The War On Democracy

The War On Democracy (Full) 

US and Latin America

US in Latin America early 20th century intervention

U.S. imperialism in Nicaragua and Latin America 

Secrets of The CIA - Chile

CIA, Chile & Allende 

Latin American Middle Class Grows by 50 Million


The middle class in Latin America and the Caribbean grew by 50 percent in roughly the last decade, according to a recent report by the World Bank.

In 2003 the group represented about 103 million people. In 2009, the most recent count, it's an estimated 152 million. Experts hailed the 49 million-person increase as a successful result of economic policy by Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) governments, but also cautioned that much more remains to be done.

"The recent experience of Latin America and the Caribbean shows the world that policies balancing economic growth while still expanding opportunities for the most vulnerable can spread prosperity to millions of people," said World Bank President, Jim Yong Kim. "Governments […] still need to do much more – one third of the population is still in poverty."

For decades, little progress was made in the region to reduce poverty and grow the middle class, according to the report. But economic stability and growth in the region, coupled with more recent changes emphasizing the delivery of social programs, spurred this meteoric boost.

"It's a remarkable phenomenon," said Augusto de la Torre, chief economist for Latin America and the Caribbean at the World Bank. " [But] I think we in Latin America have to be very careful not to sing victory, yet, because this has been accompanied by very strong tail winds in the last ten years – very favorable economic conditions."

To read more....

Class in Latin America

The expanding middle
A decade of social progress has created a bigger middle class—but not yet middle-class societies 

The Economist
Nov 10th 2012

JAMMED onto a spit of land that juts into the azure Atlantic near the centre of Recife, in Brazil’s north-east, Brasília Teimosa was until a couple of decades ago a favela of wooden fishermen’s huts. Now its streets are lined with brick houses, some of three stories and clad in decorative tiles but others jerry-built. It has seafood restaurants, shops and a couple of bank branches, but also piles of uncollected rubbish. Many marketing types and economists would hail its residents as members of Brazil’s burgeoning “new middle class”, who have become avid consumers.

That is not how Francisco Pinheiro, a community leader who was born in Brasília Teimosa, sees it. “Economically, it’s much better off than it was,” he says. “But a middle-class person is someone who lives in Boa Viagem”—a smart beachfront residential suburb close by—“with a car, an apartment and an income of 3,000 reais ($1,500) a month.” In Brasília Teimosa, he adds, the majority earn less than two minimum wages ($613)—often shared among a family of four or more.

As it happens, Mr Pinheiro’s finely-tuned sense of social class fits neatly with the definitions deployed by the World Bank in a ground-breaking new study. Having crunched the numbers from household surveys across the region, it reckons that Latin America’s middle class expanded by 50%, from 103m to 152m, between 2003 and 2009. That represents extraordinarily rapid social progress. But it means that only 30% of the region’s population is middle class (see chart). A larger group has left poverty, but only just, as have many of those in Brasília Teimosa.

What it means to be middle class is a matter of definition and debate. Sociologists and political scientists define the middle class according to education, occupational status and ownership of assets. Economists, by contrast, tend to see income as determining class.

To read more.....

A Book Review: Power Shifts ‘The Revenge of Geography,’ by Robert D. Kaplan


The New York Times 
October 5, 2012

Those who forget geography can never defeat it. That is the mantra of Robert D. Kaplan’s new book, “The Revenge of Geography: What the Map Tells Us About Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate.”Each chapter begins with a reading of the lineaments of territory in the way a fortuneteller reads the lines on a palm, a mapping of mountains, rivers and plains as determinants of destiny. But just as the text starts to teeter under the weight of geographical determinism, Kaplan quickly shifts ground, arguing for “the partial determinism we all need” (italics in the original). He retreats to the far more moderate view that geography is an indispensable “backdrop” to the human drama of ideas, will and chance.

Kaplan, a correspondent for The Atlantic and a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, resurrects 19th- and early-20th-century thinkers like Halford J. Mackinder, whose 1904 article “The Geographical Pivot of History” argued that control of the Eurasian “Heartland” would determine the fate of empires. Similarly, other contemporaneous strategists like Alfred Thayer Mahan and Nicholas J. Spykman may have favored sea power over land power, but they still described world history in terms of the eternal clash between the two (Sparta versus Athens, Venice versus Prussia). Spykman also answered Mackinder’s Heartland obsession with a focus on European, Indian and Pacific “Rimlands.” 

Most of what these authors proposed would sound politically incorrect today — imperialist and racist. Mackinder’s theories were appropriated (misappropriated, according to Kaplan) by the Nazis. Still, these geostrategists saw past the ritualized etiquette of diplomacy and the embedded expectations of law to the stark and enduring struggle for survival — tribe against tribe, invaders against inhabitants. Their strength lies in their appreciation of the ways in which the fixed elements of geography and climate shaped the more variable element of human choice — the story Jared Diamond tells today in his classic “Guns, Germs, and Steel.” 

Is China good or bad for Africa?

By Peter Eigen

Special to CNN
November 25, 2012

Editor’s note: Peter Eigen is a member of the Africa Progress Panel, chaired by Kofi Annan. He is the founder and chair of the Advisory Council, Transparency International, and chairman of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. The views expressed are the author’s own.

China’s growing presence in Africa is one of the region’s biggest stories, but even seasoned analysts cannot decide whether this booming relationship is good or bad for Africa.

Critics say Chinese strategy is entirely self-promotional, aimed at maintaining access to Africa’s precious mineral resources even when that means propping up odious governments. China’s supporters say the Asian superpower is strictly neutral and business-oriented, preferring to generate economic growth not a dangerous dependency on aid.

China has certainly been contributing to Africa’s economic growth, both in terms of trade and with building infrastructure. All over the continent, it has built roads, railways, ports, airports, and more, filling a critical gap that western donors have been shy to provide and unblocking major bottlenecks to growth.

The rehabilitated 840-mile Benguela railway line, for example, now connects Angola’s Atlantic coast with the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia. And Chinese-financed roads have cut journey times from Ethiopia’s hinterland to the strategic port of Djibouti, facilitating livestock exports.
Meanwhile, bilateral trade between Africa and China continues to grow at an extraordinary pace, reaching $160 billion in 2011 from just $ 9 billion in 2000.

To read more.....

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Forgotten Bird of Paradise

Forgotten Bird of Paradise (full version) - undercover West Papua documentary 


Argentina: Strike paralyses Buenos Aires and other cities

BBC - Latin America
November 20, 2012

A strike called by two of Argentina's biggest unions has paralysed much of Buenos Aires and other cities.

Most trains and underground lines remained closed, flights were cancelled and there was little traffic in the streets of the capital.

This is the second big protest against the government of Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner in less than two weeks.

The unions are asking for lower income taxes, and there is general discontentment about the economy.

There are also concerns about rising crime and corruption.

President Fernandez, who has been in power since 2007, has seen her approval ratings plunge after her re-election a year ago.

The strike was called by two unions that have recently dropped their support to the government, the CGT and the CTA.

It was also backed up by the powerful Argentine Agrarian Federation, which represents the farming sector.

"It feels like Sunday in Buenos Aires, with the cafes and the shops open but generally empty streets in the usually congested central area of the city," says the BBC's Vladimir Hernandez.

To read more....

Viva Venezuela! New Documentary Released

Viva Venezuela! New Documentary Released

GM to buy Ally's Europe, Latin America operations

November 23, 2012

General Motors ' financing arm GM Financial has agreed to pay about $4.2 billion (£2.6 billion) for the European and Latin American auto lending operations of Ally Financial , as it looks to extend its in-house financing to boost sales.

Ally, which is 74 per cent owned by the US government, announced the plan to sell its international operations in May, in an effort to speed up the repayment of bailout funds. The company is focusing on its US business and has already sold operations in Canada and Mexico.

GM said the purchase should increase its sales in Europe and Latin America, reflecting its experience in North America after it returned to in-house financing with the creation of GM Financial in 2010.
GM is also still partially owned by the US government after a series of bailouts during the financial crisis and the companies also have an intertwined history: Ally is the former financing arm of GM and was once known as GMAC .

The automaker has been gradually rebuilding its finance operations since selling a controlling stake in GMAC to private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management in 2006.

"We're bringing those parts of Ally back into the family," said Dan Ammann , GM's chief financial officer, on a conference call with reporters.

To read more....

How Twitter will revolutionise academic research and teaching

Social media is becoming increasingly important in teaching and research work but tutors must remember, it's a conversation not a lecture, says Ernesto Priego           

Ernesto Priego     
Guardian Professional
Monday 12 September 2011

n chapter two of Christian Vandendorpe's From Papyrus to Hypertext titled: In the beginning was the ear, Vandendorpe says it took millenia "for literature to free itself from primary orality, albeit not completely". In the beginning all reading was done out loud, and it was not until the 12th century that books were created for silent reading. Orthographic signs and the separation between words had appeared around the 7th century, but did not become common until the 9th century amongst the learned communities of monks. Walter J Ong, in his classic study of writing and orality, Orality and Literacy defines as the "technologizing of the word" the process of developing a new relationship between language and thought.

Something similar is happening today in academia. Just like Augustine marveled, in the year 400, at the sight of Ambrose reading in silence, many members of academia marvel (or react with rejection) at the rapid changes in the production and dissemination of scholarly work and interaction between academics and those "outside" academic institutions. Thousands of scholars and higher education institutions are participating in social media (such as Twitter), as an important aspect of their research and teaching work.

There is still considerable resistance to embracing social media tools for educational purposes, but if you are reading this article you are probably willing to consider their positive effects. New technologies have slow adoption cycles, and often the learning curve is steep. Those already using these tools within academic contexts should not be considered a priori as "the converted"; perception and usage of social media varies wildly, and due to the inherently fluid and malleable nature of the platforms themselves we are still in the process of assessing all their possibilities.

Mobile phones and tablets enable the user in producing content, and to publish and disseminate it online. The microblogging platform Twitter is purposefully designed to exchange information and to facilitate reciprocal communication and attribution, therefore enabling the creation of communities of individuals interested in common topics. But the easy part of tweeting is publishing content; the difficult side is actually committing to active public engagement.

To read more....

Is Gideon Levy the most hated man in Israel or just the most heroic?

For three decades, the writer and journalist Gideon Levy has been a lone voice, telling his readers the truth about what goes on in the Occupied Territories.

Interview by Johann Hari

The Independent
Gideon Levy is the most hated man in Israel – and perhaps the most heroic. This “good Tel Aviv boy” – a sober, serious child of the Jewish state – has been shot at repeatedly by the Israeli Defence Force, been threatened with being “beaten to a pulp” on the country’s streets, and faced demands from government ministers that he be tightly monitored as “a security risk.” This is because he has done something very simple, and something that almost no other Israeli has done. Nearly every week for three decades, he has travelled to the Occupied Territories and described what he sees, plainly and without propaganda. “My modest mission,” he says, “is to prevent a situation in which many Israelis will be able to say, ‘We didn’t know.’” And for that, many people want him silenced.

The story of Gideon Levy – and the attempt to deride, suppress or deny his words – is the story of Israel distilled. If he loses, Israel itself is lost.

I meet him in a hotel bar in Scotland, as part of his European tour to promote his new book, ‘The Punishment of Gaza’. The 57 year-old looks like an Eastern European intellectual on a day off – tall and broad and dressed in black, speaking accented English in a lyrical baritone. He seems so at home in the world of book festivals and black coffee that it is hard, at first, to picture him on the last occasion he was in Gaza – in November, 2006, before the Israeli government changed the law to stop him going.

He reported that day on a killing, another of the hundreds he has documented over the years. As twenty little children pulled up in their school bus at the Indira Gandhi kindergarten, their 20 year-old teacher, Najawa Khalif, waved to them – and an Israel shell hit her and she was blasted to pieces in front of them. He arrived a day later, to find the shaking children drawing pictures of the chunks of her corpse. The children were “astonished to see a Jew without weapons. All they had ever seen were soldiers and settlers.”

“My biggest struggle,” he says, “is to rehumanize the Palestinians. There’s a whole machinery of brainwashing in Israel which really accompanies each of us from early childhood, and I’m a product of this machinery as much as anyone else. [We are taught] a few narratives that it’s very hard to break. That we Israelis are the ultimate and only victims. That the Palestinians are born to kill, and their hatred is irrational. That the Palestinians are not human beings like us… So you get a society without any moral doubts, without any questions marks, with hardly public debate. To raise your voice against all this is very hard.”

College of Future Could Be Come One, Come All


The New York Times
November 19, 2012

Teaching  Introduction to Sociology is almost second nature to Mitchell Duneier, a professor at Princeton: he has taught it 30 times, and a textbook he co-wrote is in its eighth edition. But last summer, as he transformed the class into a free online course, he had to grapple with some brand-new questions: Where should he focus his gaze while a camera recorded the lectures? How could the 40,000 students who enrolled online share their ideas? And how would he know what they were learning?

In many ways, the arc of Professor Duneier’s evolution, from professor in a lecture hall to online instructor of tens of thousands, reflects a larger movement, one with the potential to transform higher education. Already, a handful of companies are offering elite college-level instruction — once available to only a select few, on campus, at great cost — free, to anyone with an Internet connection.

Moreover, these massive open online courses, or MOOCs, harness the power of their huge enrollments to teach in new ways, applying crowd-sourcing technology to discussion forums and grading and enabling professors to use online lectures and reserve on-campus class time for interaction with students. 

A New Book: The Making of Global Capitalism:

The Making of Global Capitalism: The Political Economy of American Empire
by Sam Gindin and Leo Panitch

Verso, 2012

A groundbreaking account of America's role in global capitalism.

The all-encompassing embrace of world capitalism at the beginning of the twenty-first century was generally attributed to the superiority of competitive markets. Globalization had appeared to be the natural outcome of this unstoppable process. But today, with global markets roiling and increasingly reliant on state intervention to stay afloat, it has become clear that markets and states aren’t straightforwardly opposing forces.

In this groundbreaking work, Leo Panitch and Sam Gindin demonstrate the intimate relationship between modern capitalism and the American state, including its role as an “informal empire” promoting free trade and capital movements. Through a powerful historical survey, they show how the US has superintended the restructuring of other states in favor of competitive markets and coordinated the management of increasingly frequent financial crises.

The Making of Global Capitalism, through its highly original analysis of the first great economic crisis of the twenty-first century, identifies the centrality of the social conflicts that occur within states rather than between them. These emerging fault lines hold out the possibility of new political movements transforming nation states and transcending global markets.